[lg policy] Scotland: Tribunal asks boss to put himself in workers’ shoes after ‘banning Polish worker from speaking Polish’

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Thu Apr 30 15:07:35 UTC 2015

Tribunal asks boss to put himself in workers’ shoes after ‘banning Polish
worker from speaking Polish’

29 April 2015 by Joshua King

The boss of a fish processing firm accused of race discrimination by
imposing a controversial ban on speaking foreign languages was asked to put
himself in the shoes of his workers yesterday.

Polish payroll administrator Magdalena Konieczna has taken Whitelink
Seafoods in Fraserburgh to an employment tribunal claiming she was unfairly

On Monday Mrs Konieczna told the Aberdeen tribunal that before she was
fired in June last year, a new rule came into force banning workers from
speaking anything but English.

Yesterday Andrew Sutherland, a director at Whitelink Seafoods, was pressed
on why the common language policy was necessary.

He said: “I know we put the policy in to ensure people speak English as
much as possible while packing fish and for health and safety concerns.”

The tribunal heard that on one occasion Mr Sutherland confronted Mrs
Konieczna while she was speaking in Polish to a colleague in reception and
told her to speak English instead.
Magdalena Konieczna outside the tribunal

Magdalena Konieczna outside the tribunal

Yesterday tribunal judge Nicol Hosie asked him how he would feel about the
policy if he was a worker in a foreign country.

The fish marketing manager responded: “I should have learned a modern
language before I went out to a foreign country.”

Later, Valerie Ritchie, who dismissed Mrs Konieczna from Whitelink,
insisted the blanket ban was intended to foster a common language and
improve safety.

However, when quizzed by Mr Hosie on whether the ban could actually
endanger foreign workers if they were unable to alert colleagues, the human
resources manager conceded the policy would not be enforced.

She said: “We’ve got safety information on the wall and if there’s a safety
issue on the floor they need to communicate with each other. You couldn’t
possibly put signs up for every language. We’re going to miss some
languages and then we’re discriminating against them.”

She added: “If somebody was about to lose their hand I would not discipline
them for speaking their language. But if someone was showing a disregard
you would have to resort to disciplinary action.”

The firm, based on Watermill Road, employs about 100 workers of eight
different nationalities, including Latvian, Polish, Lithuanian, Chinese and
Bulgarian. The case has been put on hold until a key witness is available
to give evidence.


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